Andrew Mitchell under mounting pressure in 'police insult' row

 
Andrew Mitchell Mr Mitchell denies using specific words reported by the Sun

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Pressure is mounting on Conservative minister Andrew Mitchell after police leaders urged him to resign and Labour called for a full account of his outburst at an officer.

The Tory Chief Whip denies claims he swore at a policeman on duty outside Downing Street and called him a "pleb".

The officer concerned has insisted reports of what happened are accurate.

Mr Mitchell has apologised but Labour said No 10 "must make clear" the exact words he used in the confrontation.

The body representing rank-and-file police officers said Mr Mitchell's alleged remarks were "outrageous" while the prime minister said the minister's conduct was "not appropriate".

John Tully, the Metropolitan Police Federation chairman, said the minister's outburst was "disgraceful" and he must resign, adding that the minister was "lucky not to be placed under arrest if indeed he did say those words, and I have no reason to doubt that he did".

Mr Mitchell's behaviour has also been criticised by a number of Conservative colleagues.

'Lack of respect'

The incident occurred on Wednesday after Mr Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, was told by officers to get off his bicycle as he left Downing Street and use the smaller pedestrian gate instead of the main entrance used by cars.

He is reported by the Sun to have used foul language and told the officer at the gates to "learn your place" and "you don't run this government".

David Cameron: "What Andrew Mitchell said and what he did was not appropriate"

The officer - a member of Scotland Yard's Diplomatic Protection Group, SO6 - reported the incident to his superiors.

The BBC's home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the officer had backed up the Sun's version of events and the language - including the word "pleb" - that Mr Mitchell was reported to have used.

Downing Street said Mr Mitchell had "apologised profusely" to the officer on the telephone and sources also stressed Mr Cameron had made clear to Mr Mitchell how displeased he is at the confrontation with a police officer.

The source added that the PM still has faith in Mr Mitchell as Chief Whip and that the minister disputes The Sun's version of events.

Mr Cameron said: "He has obviously apologised to me, but more importantly he has apologised thoroughly to the police and that needed to be done."

The prime minister also praised the police, saying they do an "outstanding job".

But Mr Mitchell's apology has not been accepted by police union leaders.

Police Federation national chairman, Paul McKeever, said: "It is hard to fathom how someone who holds the police in such contempt could be allowed to hold a public office.

"Mr Mitchell's half-hearted apology for the comments made whilst leaving Downing Street will do little to build bridges with the police who feel they have once again been treated with a lack of respect and civility by members of this government."

"The lack of regard that some within government appear to hold police officers in is especially disappointing during this tragic week for the service and does nothing for the rock bottom morale of officers in this country."

'Deeply shocked'

ANDREW MITCHELL BIOGRAPHY

  • He was reportedly nicknamed 'Thrasher' at school due to his love of discipline
  • His father was a Conservative politician and minister under Margaret Thatcher
  • He is a former soldier who served as a UN peacekeeper in Cyprus in the 1970s
  • He entered Parliament in 1987 and was a whip during the Major government
  • He lost his seat in 1997 but returned to Parliament four years later
  • While an opposition spokesman on international development, he was also a director of a merchant bank
  • He was appointed international development secretary in 2010 and became Tory chief whip earlier this month

Backbench Conservative MP Philip Davies said the reported comments were "obviously unacceptable" and that he would tell Mr Mitchell, who attends cabinet but is not a full cabinet minister, so to his face when he next sees him.

And a senior backbencher, who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity, said the comments were "not out of character" and Mr Mitchell should consider his position.

"I am deeply shocked that a senior member of the government could speak to an officer in this way," he said.

Asked if Mitchell's position was tenable, he said, "I think it's very difficult for him to continue".

'Appalling'

Labour have said the reported comments were "appalling" and No 10 has "a lot of questions to answer".

"Downing Street must make clear exactly what Andrew Mitchell said to the police officer," a party spokesman said.

"There are two alternatives. Either the chief whip used appalling and offensive language to an officer going about their duty or Mr Mitchell is saying the officer is lying.

"Downing Street will know. They must make the position clear urgently. A half-hearted apology is not enough."

Mr Mitchell only became Conservative chief whip earlier this month, after being moved from his previous position as international development secretary in Mr Cameron's first major reshuffle.

In his current role, he is responsible for enforcing party discipline and keeping rebellious backbenchers in line.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 283.

    Those old enough to remember Norman Lamont's 'Non je ne regrette rien' and the blessed Margaret's, 'We are going to be a grandmother' should not be surprised at Andrew Mitchell's arrogance. Tell me we voted this lot in as a protest against Gordon Brown and Tony Blair and that next time we will vote for a government dedicated to one nation values with the rich paying and not dodging their taxes.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 282.

    This last week Michelle Obama said that politics reveals who you are. Truer words were never spoken.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 281.

    Can we really be surprised just how much the plebs are held in contempt by the Conservatives. Mitchell was just being honest.
    At least Romney's electoral target is 53% of the population. What we have always known is that the Tories represent a very much lower figure than that.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 280.

    267 - Nige

    It looked to me to be John Prescott defending himself when he hit that guy in the face.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 279.

    Respect has to be earned and is not "deserved" as Cameron seems to suggest.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 278.

    I got -6 'rep points' (#145) LOL!

    6 idiots. *rolls eyes*

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 277.

    Whatever was or was not said, by and to whom, was there really any reason for the police officer NOT to open the gate and let the man cycle out? If he cycled on the pavement he would be committing an offence. It all seems a bit of two people each trying to get the better of the other.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 276.

    241, McGill, I think you'll find that isn't evidence. They are Labour buzz words doing the trick they were intended for on your malleable brain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 275.

    267. Nige
    remember that John Prescott, (whilst in his role as deputy prime minister of UK) hit a member of the public in the face in 2001, (on camera) and he kept both his job and his pension.
    +++
    Prescott was defending himself.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 274.

    Terrible country we live in if it is represented by MPs. We voted them in they are voting us out. They are our servants are they not? They represent our parts of the country? No they clear off down to LOndon for an all expenses paid jolly and abuse with their comments and snobbery.

  • rate this
    -37

    Comment number 273.

    Does it really matter?
    The policeman sounds officious and I don't blame Mitchell for losing his temper. Cycling on the pavement is an offence and wheeling a bicycle through a pedestrian gate is silly - some won't FIT through them.
    I expect the pc has heard worse anyway!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 272.

    You couldn't make this up.. And of all weeks to do it.

    The copper should have just arrested him for obstruction and the use of foul and abusive language.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 271.

    While any Police Officer should be quite able to stand up to a bit of ripe language and personal insults - the ripe language and personal insults should not be coming from a Government minister!

  • rate this
    -59

    Comment number 270.

    I'm new to this, but looking at the Editor's picks and the Editor's dislikes it's easy to see that he got his job through a Guardian ad, and that he is a fully paid up member of the BBC middle-class leftie club. Wouldn't it be terrific to have a really unbiased public broadcaster. The management should be ashamed!!

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 269.

    Thank you Andrew Mitchell for giving us a window into the dark abyss that is the Tory Soul.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 268.

    Mitchell's words betray the real face of this Govt. They think they are better than others and that they were born to rule. Hence their policies where their class is fattened with tax cuts and taxpayers' money while the ordinary citizens are regarded as lesser creatures. It's Govt by snobbery.
    'Learn your place'? Does he think it's 1912?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 267.

    He should resign as he appears to be a bit of a git, however, we must remember that John Prescott, (whilst in his role as deputy prime minister of UK) hit a member of the public in the face in 2001, (on camera) and he kept both his job and his pension.

    What a short memory Labour MPs have.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 266.

    I think it is unfortunate that we only have one word (Police) to cover a multitude of tasks. The job at Downing Street is hardly more than "janitor." I'm sure many of us have responded like Mitchell to a similar jobsworths. His comments were no reflection on other police doing other tasks.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 265.

    241. McGill

    You could use the same words to describe the last Labour government. All Politicians are much the same.

    What I find surprising is that so many people think that paragon of virtue, The Sun - you know, the one that had to apologise to Liverpool and comes from the same stable as the NOTW (remember Milly Dowler?) - actually tells the truth! As I said, I will wait for hard evidence.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 264.

    A chief whip.caught in a compromising position...My, my , Urguhart would be mortified...

    A politicians word against a specialist copper....who to believe ?..

    Mitchell is abit slippery..oily even ..he ain`t the first to watch his hubris catch up with him...

 

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